As summer marches inevitably toward fall, I'm getting in as much warm-weather Rosé drinking as I can. Before we know it, we'll be stoking the fireplaces and cracking open big, meaty, winter red wines.
Rosé, technically, is red wine. That's because it's made from red wine grape varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and others, including even Malbec. However, Rosé drinks like white wine: It's typically light-bodied, low in tannins and can be bone-dry and acidic. Rosé is made from black-skinned grapes, which are crushed and left to intermingle with the juice for just a short time, usually one to three days. In red-winemaking, the skins would be left in contact throughout the fermentation process. With Rosé, the skins are discarded, which also removes most of the tannins from the wine. Generally, the darker the Rosé wine, the longer the skins have been left in contact with the juice, and the more tannic the wine will be. Rosé ranges in color from very pale orange to light purple, and although it's most popular in France, Rosé is now produced in nearly every winemaking region in the world.
Since it is usually served chilled, Rosé is perfect for sipping on the deck during the summer months or as an accompaniment to meats and seafood from the grill. But it's not a wine to ponder or to put away. Rosé is always best consumed within a year or two of its release. Here are a few excellent Rosés to round out your summer:
Let's start in France, where the world's best Rosés are made. I normally turn to Rosés from Provence when I'm drinking French Rosé. However, I recently came across this nice one from Minervois in the Languedoc: Chateau du Donjon Rosé Minvervois 2014 ($13.99). Created by the talented winemaker Jean Panis, this 60/40 blend of Syrah and Grenache has strawberry and raspberry notes and an herbal hint. For the price—$7.99—it's hard to beat La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2014 from Mount Ventoux (the most grueling leg of the Tour de France) in Provence. The 2014 vintage produced an easy-drinking, everyday Rosé that's as soft on the palate as it is on the budget.
Over in Italy, Negroamaro grapes are macerated for a mere 12 to 24 hours to create Cantele Negroamaro Rosato 2014 ($11.99). This is a light, bright Rosé that, although it's not from France, is excellent with French-style bouillabaisse. It's also a good partner for pasta dishes with cream sauce.
You don't see all that much Rosé made from Cabernet Sauvignon, but South Africa's Mulderbosch Vineyards produces one: Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2014 ($13.99). This salmon-colored Rosé is zesty and acidic, with a hearty mineral backbone. It pairs nicely with chicken piccata.
Argentina produces a lot of Malbec, so it's no surprise that Crios Rosé of Malbec 2014 ($14.99) should be made with it, nor that it would, like most Malbec, weigh in at a hefty 14.5 percent alcohol. (Most of the other Rosés mentioned here are around 12 percent.) So, Crios has a lot of body for a Rosé and is brimming with bright raspberry notes. Try it with roasted chicken or grilled sausage.
Closer to home, California is producing great Rosé wines these days. You'd swear Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($16.99) was from Provence, given its elegant complexity. Subtle, smooth strawberry and raspberry flavors combined with refreshing acidity make this the perfect late-summer picnic wine. And three more excellent California pink wines should be on your shopping list: Lorenza Rosé 2014 ($17.99), Valley of the Moon Rosato di Sangiovese 2013 ($16.95), and Saintsbury "Vincent Vin Gris" of Pinot Noir 2014 ($16.99).